By now, we all know 2020’s drill; refocus, recalibrate, and restrategize. Marketers, brand managers, and event planners have had to drastically reevaluate their offerings this year to ensure that despite the extreme challenges, they will come out of this and into “the new normal”.
For a business to survive, things can’t be put on hold indefinitely. Some companies have gone ahead with their product launches despite the times, and in many cases, successfully so.
Thankfully, parts of the world have now started to resume some semblance of normality, and as more lockdown restrictions ease, it’s time to think about how you can launch that new product or service.
What might product launches look like in 2021?
Uncertain times inspire creative solutions, and thanks to emerging technologies, we have more options for alternative product launches than ever before. Think carefully about what format would best suit your brand, your business objectives, and your target market.
Virtual product launches
As the world battened down the hatches in response to the pandemic, virtual events rose to new heights. Many businesses needed a quick alternative to physical events, and potential customers with extra time on their hands were eager to engage with brands online. Virtual events remain viable options for product launches if your customer base is global or if you are in a country with lockdown restrictions in place for an indefinite period.
One of the lesser-known advantages of virtual events is that they allow brands to vary their release schedules and choose to go live with their new products at the best time for them strategically (and not dictated by a trade show, for example). This could give brands a massive advantage, and empower them to choose to launch when there is less competition or when demand for heir product is at its highest.
Some brands have had incredible success with their virtual product launches. Chinese mobile phone producer Xiaomi, live-streamed their virtual event to some 12 million people. Even perfume brands, who have historically relied on in-person product launches, have found creative ways to navigate these unusual times.
Hybrid product launches
Perhaps the most logical evolution of product launches in the immediate future will be a movement towards hybrid events. A hybrid event is one that perfectly integrates an in-person element and virtual components. Hybrid events offer brands the opportunity to glean the benefits of both types of events. With this format, you are able to limit numbers and encourage social distancing, but not at the detriment of your reach, which makes it a phenomenal option until larger physical events are allowed once more.
Physical numbers can be kept small by limiting ticket availability, but there might be an organic element to it as well, due to travel restrictions or the high-risk attendees choosing to join online instead. Many consider hybrid events to be a cheaper option, and while they present some opportunities for cost savings, you need to factor in other expenses, such as the price of hybrid event software and experienced moderators, among others.
Smaller physical launches
The hope for many marketers and event planners is that purely physical events will come back in the not-too-distant future. They will inevitably look quite different in some ways to events of the past; they will need stringent safety and hygiene protocols in place, enough distance between guests, and, ultimately, fewer audience numbers. Initially, a smaller pool of potential attendees may sound daunting, but it could work in your favor. By inviting highly-targeted potential audience members instead of “anyone and everyone”, you increase your chances of better quality leads.
Instead of trying to launch a product to the entire world at one time, changes inspired by the pandemic make see brands focusing on localized marketing, where a product is launched in different regions at different times. Localized events might also be advantageous when it comes to analyzing what worked and what didn’t with your initial events and gives you the ability to tweak your future events accordingly.
Use of high-end tech
As gatherings move into a hybrid space, it will be interesting to see how brands effectively use novel and immersive technologies. From premium streaming platforms for virtual events to the inventive use of AR and VR, there are myriad ways for brands to utilize technology to engage with their audiences and provide unforgettable brand experiences.
A greater focus on the customer
As the product launch and event space in general changes, it’s likely that brands will pivot their focus to drive genuine value for their customers. In this vein, be extra cautious about your messaging in the current climate and endeavor to better understand what challenges your customers might be facing and what it is that they need right now. This will also help you to choose when to launch your specific product (is this the best time?) and how best to do so. An older target market might mean holding out until it’s safer to have in-person events.
Before you commit to an event type and how you will execute your product launch, make sure your choices are justified. Resist the urge to do a virtual event—as an example—just because it’s the current trend. Take a look at your business objectives, budget, and the product itself, and let those factors guide your decisions.
Preparing for a changing world
While most of us hate uncertainty, it’s impossible to predict when or if we will ever be truly “post-COVID-19”. The more likely reality is that for a long time, people will be wary of going out and being around too many strangers in a closed space. Ultimately, it will probably be a matter of understanding, and adjusting to, shifting needs. The biggest consideration with any physical element of your future product launches will likely be centered on determining audience size, and how to implement safety, hygiene, and social distancing measures.
Major gatherings, no matter their format, are still likely to play an important role in forging partnerships and making sales in the future. The challenge for businesses is to look at the viable options for product launches currently and make informed decisions on the best way forward for their particular brand.
Need help simplifying the process and planning the ultimate product launch despite the circumstances? Then contact us at The Event Production Company. With close to 30 years of experience, we have hosted a wealth of successful events and we’d love to help you plan your next product launch.